Team Canada bowed to the Russian demand that international rules be used in all eight games. There were to be two international referees (from the U.S., as it turned out, for the games in Canada) with equal authority, rather than a referee and two linesmen. Body checking would be permitted all over the ice as usual, but a team would have to play short-handed for 10 full minutes if one of its players were ejected from the game. "The Boston Bruins would spend the whole season playing shorthanded if we used these rules in the NHL," said Sinden, who used to be the Bruin zookeeper.
The Russian team prepared for this elaborately arranged confrontation by reporting to its training camp in Moscow on July 5th, almost six weeks before the NHL players gathered in Toronto. Coach Vsevolod Bobrov did not permit his players to skate for almost a week, however. "Physical fitness, psychological fitness and courage combine with technical ability to make skill," he says. "We work on the first three parts, then think about the technical part." Each day the Russians started their training on a basketball court—a little basketball is good for the reflexes. Next the medicine balls. Then some weight lifting and some gymnastics. Finally, some hockey on the hardwood floor. The forwards and the defensemen passed weighted pucks with lead hockey sticks. "When at last they get onto the ice," Bobrov says, "the regular sticks and pucks feel like nothing to them." Off in a corner the goalies used one hand to dribble a weighted puck with their lead goalie's sticks; with the other they repeatedly flipped a ball in and out of their goalie's gloves. "Very good for hand-eye coordination," Bobrov says. All the time they were taking physical and psychological tests, and only those who passed remained on the team.
For the Canadians, in contrast, the first game of this series came during the off-season, and their training program had been limited to the old-line skate and scrimmage practices employed by all NHL teams. Sinden worked his players three hours a day and held three intrasquad games so that the Canadians could accustom themselves to the unfamiliar international rules. "All training camps are boring," Sinden said, "but ours was worse. The players worked hard, and I tried to be tough with them, but nearly three weeks in one place without playing games against other teams is murder. Let's face it, you get in shape because of real game competition—and that is something we never had."
The Canadian players, to a man, felt that their individual skills would count more than the Russians' superior conditioning. They were wrong, and Canada was left stunned by what one NHL official described as "the catastrophe of the century." That may have been overstatement, but it was certainly a poor way to start a world series.